The 2020 election is just a few days away, and since voting looks different this year due to COVID-19, questions and concerns over how to make sure your vote counts are on everyone’s minds. To answer last minute questions about early and in-person voting, Legacy Foundation and RiseNWI hosted a special Q&A session over Zoom and on Facebook Live.
Maranda Fishback, Legacy Foundation’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Erica Fizer, Legacy Foundation’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Sarah Ferraro, Founder of RiseNWI, and Elizabeth Palacio, an activist and RiseNWI volunteer worked as a team leading the Q&A session on Tuesday afternoon by answering questions previously sent in by community members. Questions ranged in topics like early voting, absentee voting, making sure ballot aligns with election rules, and more.
The collaboration was three years in the making. Founded by Ferraro and Ryan Strode as a civic engagement workshop series, RiseNWI was awarded a grant from Legacy Foundation’s Knight Foundation Fund to expand its efforts, becoming a full-scale program under Legacy Foundation that encourages civic engagement in its residents.
“It sprouted from people wanting this knowledge of voting and how to get involved,” Ferraro said. “We knew for some people, they really had to dig for that information sometimes to find answers.”
Ensuring voters have access to that education is a key aspect of the program, something Palacio touched on during the Q&A session.
“Knowledge is power,” Palacio said.
“Being your own advocate in this day and age when there is so much going on in the media is so important,” Ferraro said. “Where do you find the answers, the right information, especially when states and counties control their own elections and have different rules and regulations? You really have to be on the lookout for changes and new information, something that can be hard when misinformation is being shared.”
Fishback remembered when Legacy Foundation surveyed Lake County residents back in 2018 on whether or not they vote. It was an eye-opening experience for the community organization that showcased the need for accessible, factual information.
“We went to festivals, events, and fairs and did an informal survey asking people if they vote,” Fishback said. “A lot of people who said they don’t vote, when asked why, said it’s because they felt they didn’t have enough information about a candidate or voting. That’s why we started these partnerships with organizations like RiseNWI and League of Women Voters of the Calumet Area, because at the time, there really wasn’t a source of nonpartisan information.”
Fizer shared that sentiment as well, remarking how important it is to have initiatives like RiseNWI during a time when there is a lot of distrust of national media on people’s minds.
“It’s so important to have a local source of voting information like RiseNWI,” Fizer said. “It has information down to your county, city, and municipalities, and it’s coming from people who live and work and are involved in elections.”
Fishback, Fizer, Ferraro, and Palacio continued on in the Q&A session, answering important questions down to the smallest detail and encouraging people to get out and vote with a strong plan in mind.
“Even with election day less than a week away, it’s not too late to make a voting plan if you’re a voter in Lake County,” Fishback said. “You have plenty of options, from absentee mail voting, submitting a paper ballot, and in-person voting, both early and on Election Day.”
Here’s what you need to know about voting in Lake County this election day:
Absentee Voting by Mail
The deadline to request an absentee ballot has passed, but many people already have their paper ballots. If you have your paper ballot, the Board of Elections Office must have it by noon on Tuesday, November 3. You can either mail it in or you, a member of your immediate household, or your attorney-in-fact can walk it in and hand it to a Board of Elections Office employee. You can also bring these ballots to your polling location on election day, as long as it’s turned in by noon.
If the Board of Elections Office does not receive your absentee ballot by noon on November 3, you still have the opportunity to vote. Bring your absentee ballot with you and visit your polling place on election day to surrender that ballot. There, you can vote in-person.
If you have a paper ballot but decide that you no longer want to vote by absentee ballot, you can either surrender the filled out ballot at your polling place or, if your ballot is spoiled, not received, or destroyed, you can fill out an ABS5 form and vote in-person at your polling place.
Lake County has expansive early voting with eleven sites for voters to visit. Early voting ends on Monday, November 2 at noon and any registered voter can go to any early voting site in Lake County. Hours vary during the week, so make a plan on the day you intend to early vote.
Voting early is exactly like voting in-person on election day, meaning any registered voter in Lake County can take advantage of early voting. Bring your photo ID, passport, or other form of identification with you and be prepared to show that ID to the election officials to vote. Due to COVID-19, social distancing and masks are encouraged at all voting sites. With the number of voting machines available, officials have made the process smooth and quick for all voters.
Voting on Election Day
Much like voting at the Lake County early voting sites, voting in-person on election day, Tuesday November 3, is available to any registered voter. Bring your photo ID, such as a driver’s license or state ID, passport, or other form of government-issued photo identification with you and be prepared to show that ID to the election officials to vote. Social distancing and masks are encouraged in all voting places. Be aware of hours and your designated voting location to ensure you have given yourself enough time to vote. As long as you are in line before the polling location closes, you will be allowed to cast your vote.
A key thing to remember is how important it is to stay at the voting location if you have already been checked-in by an election official. If you check in and are about to cast your ballot, but decide to leave before you do, you forfeit your vote and will not be able to come back inside.
Another thing to not forget when voting in-person, whether it’s early voting or on election day, is that no candidate apparel for someone who is on the current ballot can be visible. No shirts, hats, jackets, or masks that advocate for a candidate by showing their name or photo is allowed as that is considered to be electioneering, which is illegal within 50 feet of polling places.
For more information about voting and voting requirements, check out Legacy Foundation and RiseNWI’s Facebook Live Q&A session here: https://fb.watch/1ruQASi-Xo/
You can also visit RiseNWI’s website for information regarding the election and voting here: https://www.risenwi.org.